6.29.2009

Of Lighthouses and Flank Steak

Last year's birthday was memorable enough that we repeated a few things this year, such as having dinner at Texas Roadhouse and making Ice Cream Sundae Pie. I have been eagerly anticipating Kristen's Grandma's follow-up to last year's birthday card. While it's no "For a Special Man," this year's candy-striped lighthouse is still magically old lady-ish.


I have also been hankering a heaping mound of grilled carne asada on a homemade tortilla, so I tracked down this recipe from Food Network to make for some friends on Friday night. It's definitely getting added to the family cookbook.

Carne Asada Tacos

• 2 pounds flank steak, trimmed of excess fat
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 jalapeno, minced
• 1 large handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
• 2 limes, juiced
• 1 orange, juiced
• 2 tablespoons white vinegar
• Salt & pepper
• 1/2 cup olive oil

In a mixing bowl mash together the garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, and pepper to make a paste. Add the lime juice, orange juice, vinegar, and oil. Shake it up really well to combine. Lay the flank steak in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over it. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours so the flavors can sink into the meat.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high. Brush the grates with a little oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Pull the steak out of the marinade and season both sides with additional salt and pepper. Grill the steak for 7 to 10 minutes per side, turning once, until medium-rare. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on a diagonal.

• Flour or corn tortillas
• Shredded lettuce
• Chopped onion
• Shredded cheese
• Salsa
• Guacamole
• Lime wedges

Warm the tortillas for 30 seconds on each side in a dry skillet or on the grill, until toasty and pliable. To make the tacos, lay about 4 ounces of beef down the center of a tortilla, then sprinkle with some lettuce, onion, and cheese. Top each taco with salsa and guacamole, and garnish with lime wedges.

6.26.2009

Ten Things...

... You May Not Know About Dave

Today is Dave's 29th birthday! In honor of such a momentous occasion, I thought I would post some lesser-known facts about Dave. Enjoy!

10. Dave writes the letter "S" from the bottom up.

9. Dave is incapable of producing tears.

8. Jim Carrey's The Grinch fills Dave with uncontrollable rage.

7. Dave has exactly 485,729,305,947,582,637 freckles (I counted once).

6. Dave spends approximately 10 hours per day on the computer.

5. The volume on the radio always has to be on an even number when Dave is in the car.

4. Dave is an expert at loading the dishwasher.

3. As of today, Dave owns 159 movies on DVD.

2. Dave knows what teams played in every World Series since 1988 (winners and losers).

1. Dave makes ridiculously delicious scrambled eggs.

Happy Birthday, Dave!

6.23.2009

Movies We Grew Up On: Guilty Laughs Edition

Previously: Dated Catchphrase Edition

While subbing in primary this last Sunday it was once again reiterated to me that kids have a lame, lame, lame sense of humor. But Kristen and I were no exception to this when we were youngins. Our next pair of movies serve as the proof.

Dave's Pick: Police Academy 5

We had several of the Police Academy movies recorded off TV, and I even seem to remember catching a few episodes of the short-lived cartoon from the late '80s. But we watched Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach the most by far. Why was this one our favorite? Well, I think maybe because it was the one where Captain Harris hatched a bumbling scheme. And Commandant Lassard acted oblivious. And Jones made some goofy sound effects. And Hooks got mad. And Tackleberry used an outrageous firearm. And... seriously, they made seven of these?

Is It Still Watchable? Not even remotely.
Commandant Lassard: What is the most frustrating thing about police work?
Tackleberry: Not being able to carry hand grenades, sir!
Honorable Mention: Short Circuit

Kristen's Pick: Club Paradise

This is probably my mom's favorite movie—I think because she dreams of living in the islands somewhere. Which islands? "The nice, warm islands." I pretty much have this movie memorized, but I've never run into another person outside my family that has heard of it. In the film, Jack (Robin Williams), a Chicago fireman, decides to retire and move to St. Nicholas, a caribbean island. He ends up becoming a business partner with his friend Mr. Reed, running a hotel. Shortly thereafter, a hotel critic comes to review the hotel. Jack convinces his charming British friend, Sir Anthony Cloyden Hayes, to seduce said critic so she'll give them a good review. Several guests get lost in the jungle, Barry and Barry ("smoked meats") try to score some ganja, and the government of St. Nicholas is overthrown in a military coup. They all end up happily ever after though... sort of.

Is It Still Watchable? There are still some pretty funny parts. I'd say it's one of Robin Williams' best movies (though I realize that isn't exactly saying much).
Sir Anthony Cloyden Hayes: If the world is going to hell in a bucket, I want to hold the handle.
Honorable Mention: Spies Like Us

6.20.2009

Swingtown Addendum

Exhibit G
The other morning while riding my bike I noticed this climbing apparatus. It looks like it was built for Spider-Man. I don't know many kids that are agile enough to follow its twists and turns. Still, it makes for an interesting photo composition.


Exhibit H
We were able to track down these baby swings thanks to a recommendation from our neighbor Kristina. Now Eddie can enjoy a lovely panorama of the whole valley while he swings, and his parents don't have to deal with crowds—it's a win-win situation. Like most recent trips to the park, this one was cut short by rain.

videoDue to popular demand (okay, really it was just Christie), here is a video of me demonstrating how to use Exhibit C from the previous post. The things I do for our blog.

6.16.2009

A Cure for the Summer TV Blues

The summer TV schedule is always pretty dismal, plus we downgraded our selection of channels a few months ago, so we usually only turn the TV on long enough these days to confirm that there's nothing good on. We don't watch as much in the summer anyway, but when we do, it's nice to have options other than Wipeout and So You Think You Can Dance. As a result, we have been checking out DVDs of critically acclaimed shows we missed the first time around.

So far we have completed the final season of Arrested Development, and the lone season of Freaks and Geeks. We have loved watching both, but the realization that quality shows like these aren't allowed to make sustained runs in the current TV landscape is a little depressing (though still not nearly as depressing as the summer TV schedule).

Arrested Development

I remember hearing a lot about Arrested Development during its 2 1/2 year run. The song-and-dance from the critics and fans about how I owed it to myself to watch the show became almost tiresome (and by almost I mean very). But once I finally gave in and experienced the show for myself, I realized that I really did owe it to myself to watch it, only it had already been off the air for a couple of years. Thank heaven for DVDs.


While many famous shows have taken some time to really hit their stride (The Simpsons and Seinfeld come to mind), this one arrived fully formed from day one as a gift to smart viewers out there (apparently there aren't enough of those). When the ratings didn't come, the makers of Arrested Development stayed true to the heart of the show rather than watering it down in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. They also went down swinging with a lot of satirical jabs aimed at other shows that have resorted to cheap gimmicks to stay on the air.

It's difficult to sum up what makes this show so original and witty. Perhaps that's one of the reasons it didn't last. In any case, if you consider yourself a fan of intelligent television, you really owe it to yourself to check out this show. Don't you see? That's irony.

Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks follows siblings Lindsay and Sam Weir and their respective groups as they brave the travails of high school, circa 1980. The structure and themes of the show reminded me a lot of The Wonder Years, sans the adult narration. Since the series is set during a specific time period, there are lots of fun cultural references incorporated into the storylines, plus generous helpings of classic Van Halen, Styx, and other great bands featured on the soundtrack. It is also fun playing spot the future star when examining the show's credits.

In comparing my life to that of the main characters, I probably started out as Sam (John Francis Daley), greeting every life change like a deer in headlights. Then I'd say I morphed into rock-n-roll-loving Ken (Seth Rogen) as I came of age—content to hang out in the background, but popping up sporadically with a well-timed sarcastic remark. The always infallible "Which character are you?" Facebook quiz even confirmed this for me.

The show is so true to life at times that it can be painful. An episode where Sam and his friends struggle with a rule that everyone must shower after gym class unearthed repressed memories of my junior high gym teacher Coach Pierce and his quest, nay, obsession to enforce a similar shower mandate (not to mention his Bob Marley fetish).

For whatever insane reason, Freaks and Geeks never found a sizeable audience either. After we breezed through all 18 episodes in a week and a half, Kristen and I were left wanting more. Fortunately, the finale concludes in such a way that it does feel like a complete arc—even if there are some loose threads left hanging.

6.14.2009

Swingtown

Overall, Daybreak is a very well-planned community, and we have enjoyed living here. We love the distinct style of the houses, the walking trails, and the plethora of parks. What we want to know is who is in charge of picking the playground equipment. Eddie loves to swing, but it has been quite an ordeal finding a nearby park that actually has baby swings.

Exhibit A
Here we have the standard Daybreak-style big toy—uniform colors and fixtures, a slide, lots of climbing options, but no adjacent swing set.

Exhibit B
Essentially a smaller version of Exhibit A, and still no swings. Most community parks have something akin to A or B.

Exhibit C
Perhaps we aren't with "it" when it comes to modern playgrounds, because we had no idea what this thing was upon first glance. Our curiosity got the better of us though, and we just had to test it out. It works by standing on the little platform, grabbing the handlebars, and swinging your legs side to side. What is this trying to simulate? I have no idea.

Exhibit D
This is, by far, the biggest waste of space in the entire community. I was all set to say we have never seen anyone playing on it, but shortly after I took this photo, a pair of kids excitedly ran up and started climbing. However, after about 30 seconds, when they realized there was nothing to climb to, I overheard one of their parents say, "Why don't we go to that other park."

Exhibit E
This lakeside park just opened a few months ago, and much to our relief it actually has two baby swings—the only two in all of Daybreak that we know of. The main drawback is this park is always very crowded (except when our arrival coincides with a thunderstorm as this trip did).

Exhibit F
We just discovered this park last weekend in one of the newer areas still under construction. We thought we had hit the motherload until we realized that not one of the 8 swings were equipped with a baby seat.

Kristen is fired up enough about this issue that she is considering calling the Community Association to demand more baby swings. Because really, the more opportunities we have for photo-ops like this, the better.

6.10.2009

100 Years 100 Movies: Simpsons Savant

Previously: Why the Long Face?

This unlikely pair of classic movies don't share any common threads... other than making select episodes of The Simpsons even funnier.

26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

As I watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one question preoccupied my mind. If idealistic junior senator Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) was appalled at the government corruption back then, what would he think now? Like that other Frank Capra movie (It's A Wonderful Life), Jimmy Stewart really gets put through the ringer before he gets his happy ending. But along the way, he illuminates what it means to be an American. Seeing his wide-eyed wonder as he visits all the national monuments for the first time made me want to book a vacation to Washington DC. And the climactic filibuster scene is the stuff of Hollywood legend as Smith and Senator Paine (Claude Rains) hammer away at each other until they are hoarse. The film is not without a few head-scratching moments though. Case in point, not long after Smith first arrives in Washington, the press has some fun with his naiveté, printing all sorts of wild headlines about him. In response to this betrayal, Smith tracks down the responsible reporters and starts punching them out one by one—yet there is nary a headline about this tirade. In any case, I'm still holding out for Homer and Mel Gibson's modern day remake, as featured in The Simpsons episode "Beyond Blunderdome." All in favor... say die!
Jefferson Smith: Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that.

video
47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

During a hot, sticky summer in New Orleans, Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter) takes in her mysterious older sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), much to the chagrin of her brutish husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando). How these three very different people deal with the difficult situation makes up the heart of the story. Even though we watched the director's cut that restored certain scenes deemed too racy for 1951 audiences, there is still a lot of dancing around certain "adult" themes that left Kristen and I guessing at what was really going on. Plus, I had a hard time knowing who to pledge my sympathies too. Stanley is surely meant to be the bad guy, but Brando gives such a powerful performance that I found myself looking past Stanley's vices and relating more to him. I mean, Blanche is so pretentious and needy, I'd want her out of my house too. He eventually does something unredeemable though, so there's no one left to root for. Perhaps that's the point. Anyway, since A Streetcar Named Desire was such a touchstone of more realistic acting in movies, it was certainly interesting to see once, but I can't say I am in a hurry to ever watch it again. I will, however, be enjoying The Simpsons episode "A Streetcar Named Marge" for years to come. This episode was moderately funny before, but seeing it with the added context of the film really elevates it. Marge as Blanche and Ned Flanders as Stanley in a community musical production, Oh, Streetcar!—that's some quality satire.
Stanley Kowalski: Hey, Stellaaaaaa!

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6.07.2009

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

For as long as I can remember, I have hated the game of Monopoly. When I was a kid, my brothers and I would occasionally play. These games would start out happily enough. Inevitably, however, they would start to turn, and would usually end with me throwing something at someone and/or crying.


When I married Dave, I didn't realize that I was marrying into not just one Monopoly game, but two. We have both the Star Wars Classic Trilogy Edition and Star Wars Episode I Edition. Dave has a vague recollection of us playing once in our first year of marriage, but apparently I have repressed that memory. All other Monopoly invitations have been soundly rejected.

About a month ago, in our boredom, Dave once again suggested that we play Monopoly, more as a joke than anything. Since it was either Monopoly or watching an NBA playoff game, I agreed to play, much to his surprise. Now I am hooked! We have played a round or two almost every night since then. The Classic Trilogy Edition smells like boys (since that is what Dave and his friends frequently played as teenagers), so we always play the Episode I Edition.

I still hate Monopoly when I am losing. I guess my problem with the game (at least when only two people are playing) is that if you're not fortunate enough to get a full color group (and the other player doesn't need to trade), you are pretty much hosed. A lot of it is based on luck, and it is frustrating to be slowly whittled away, handing over all of your cash and properties one roll at a time.

I have come to grips with my anger issues, though. I don't freak out at Dave when he wins. Now when things start to turn, I merely say, "Can we start over?" Sometimes (if it's going badly enough) we do. We've come to realize that the game is much more fun for the both of us if we're fairly evenly matched and get locked into an epic battle. Of course, it's most fun when I'm the one that dominates.

(The real fight comes in deciding who gets to be Jar Jar.)

6.03.2009

We Heart Pizza

Growing up on the East Coast, I was fortunate enough to experience authentic New York-style pizza at a young age. For the uninitiated, a slice of this pizza boasts an impossibly thin crust that is crunchy on the edges. chewy in the middle, and flops under the perfect ratio of zesty sauce and molten cheese. My family moved to Utah when I was 11, and we soon realized that in doing so, we were exiling ourselves to a life of mediocre big chain pizza... or so it semed. For a long time we were resigned to dreaming about the good stuff and only getting occasional tastes on vacations. My brother Rob has even tried making it at home. Thankfully, it has become much easier to find good local pizzerias these days as other East Coast natives have relocated here and brought their pizza-making prowess with them.

Big Apple Pizzeria
Locations: Millcreek, Midvale

My sister Christie tipped us off on Big Apple Pizzeria when we moved to Sugar House. When I took my first bite, it was the first time I realized it was possible to have good New York-style pizza west of, well, the East. This is now my point of reference for all pizza I eat—is it as good as Big Apple? At one point Kristen and I stocked up on half price gift certificates from CityDeals.com, and ate here probably once a week for several months straight. We tried the garlic knots our first time dining in, and I don't think we have ever placed an order since that hasn't included them—they are a must. If you deem it worthy of repeat visits, definitely give the calzones a try. We don't get to eat here nearly as much as we would like since moving to the edge of civilization.

Este Pizzeria
Locations: Sugar House, Downtown Salt Lake

Not long after becoming addicted to Big Apple, we found Este Pizzeria hidden off 21st South and 9th East. It was as if we were suddenly in the midst of a booming thunderstorm after a long drought. We still slightly preferred Big Apple, but since Este was a lot closer to our old house, it won out when convenience was an issue. Either way, it was nice to have options.

NYPD Pizza
Location: Draper

NYPD is a growing franchise with locations in a handful of states (though New York isn't one of them). The first Utah location recently opened in Draper, so we just had to try it out. When you first walk in, you are greeted by the standard New York-themed decor on the walls. Anyone can hang tin subway signs and black and white photos of the Empire State Building, so how was the pizza? Well, it wouldn't have made the list if it wasn't good. We will definitely be going back.

The Pie Pizzeria
Locations: Salt Lake, Midvale, South Jordan, Ogden

I had long heard good things about The Pie, but was repeatedly underwhelmed by it. The crust was always too heavy, and it was overloaded with cheese and toppings. The problem, I soon realized, was that we were getting the "preferred by most" standard crust. So we gave The Pie yet another chance, this time ordering a cheese pizza on thin crust, and I was converted at last. A tip of the cap must go to the delicious cheese pull-a-parts (mozzarella-stuffed breadsticks) which kept us coming back in the first place.

Zeponie Pizza
Location: Centerville

While technically not New York-style, I have many fond memories of eating here, and the pizza is still pretty darn good in its own right. Zeponie first opened its doors when I was in high school. Located only a few blocks from my friend Spencer's house, and directly adjacent to 3-D Video, we quickly grew an attachment to the little place—not unlike Jerry with Babu's restaurant on Seinfeld (though we didn't recommend changing the menu to Pakistani). They were so strapped for business in the early days that the lone delivery guy would usually be sitting in the back corner of the restaurant watching TV when we would walk in. The dining area was simple—a handful of tables surrounded by forest green plastic lawn chairs, the aforementioned 19" TV, and Bram Stoker's Dracula pinball. Over the years Zeponie has gradually become a staple in the community, and I like to think we played a small part in that (the pizza might have also been a factor). They have since spiced up their decor with wall-to-wall laserdisc and record sleeves, and replaced the lawn chairs with honest-to-goodness booths. Unfortunately, Dracula pinball didn't survive the transition.

Finally, a single tear for Atlantic Pizza & Deli which I would frequent for lunch when I worked in Park City. I was all set to include it in this list until I discovered that it just closed recently. So what pizzerias do you recommend? I promise not to hold it against you if it isn't New York-style.

6.01.2009

Ten Things...

...You Should Never Have to Hear in Church (Part 2)

Part 1 was a favorite from the early days of our blog, so hopefully the sequel can live up to the original. Once again, these have all been inspired by actual church experiences. And let's hear your additions if you've got 'em.

10. Overzealous singers that feel the need to not only sing louder than the entire congregation, but about a half beat slower as well.

9. Testimonies that prominently involve professing a love for cookies.

8. Youth Speaker: "For my talk, I will now read the following story verbatim from The New Era."

7. Flamboyant, Celion Dion-esque musical numbers from the ward choir director who takes herself a little too seriously (and hasn't updated her hair style since the late '80s).

6. The word "poopy," even if used as part of a faith-promoting story about changing diapers.


5. Lengthy Sunday School debates about the geography of downtown Salt Lake in 1943.

4. Introductions explaining the "hilarious" circumstances of the bishopric calling to extend a speaking assignment. ("When Brother So-and-So asked if I would give a talk, I wanted to say no, yet here I am. Maybe I won't answer the phone next time. Hiyo!")

3. The phrase "my life has been a living hell" in all its uses.

2. The poem "Footprints in the Sand." We've heard it. "It was then that I carried you." We get it. Can we please retire this one?

1. Any statement that has to be prefaced with "Now this isn't doctrine, but..."